I went on a Trip: my Magic Mushroom Experience

At the age of sixteen I met God for the first time. As a child of left-wing intellectual and atheist parents, this was a memorable event in my world. Admittedly, this experience was triggered by a small dose of ‘Magic Mushrooms’ I had consumed during a camping trip with friends in the USA. I did not have expectations of what the psychogenic mushrooms would do for me beyond intensifying my perception (especially visually) in the way friends had reported from their trips. My trip turned out differently than I had expected. Not only did I experience an intense connection with all creation in the universe, but also had the feeling of having met an abstract version of God, that revealed itself to me as a felt sense of pure love. This event has profoundly shaped my understanding of the world and my trust in being connected to life in a profound and loving way.

The possibilities of psychedelics

If you would like to know more about the current state of research, I recommend the TEDtalk by Rick Doblin i.e. The future of psychedelic assisted psychotherapy, the podcast by Tim Ferris on Psychedelics — Microdosing, Mind-Enhancing Methods, and More or the book How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan. These contributions provide a good insight into the historical background of the demonising of psychedelic substances, the prejudices that have persisted for decades, and the actual risks associated with these drugs.

Getting ready for my trip

I set off on my journey to Holland, leaving my life in Berlin behind me. The starting point of the workshop was a meeting of the sixteen participants in an Amsterdam coffee shop. In Holland, the sale and consumption of ‘magic mushroom truffles’ is legal. The truffles are part of the root system of the mushroom and have the same psychedelic properties as the actual mushroom.

After purchasing our most important ingredient, we drove by coach to the Retreat Centre, which is located an hour and a half outside Amsterdam on the edge of a picturesque nature reserve. After arriving on Friday afternoon, the rest of Friday and half of Saturday were dedicated to preparing emotionally, psychologically and physically for the trip. With a lot of empathy, the facilitators led us through various self-reflection exercises and made sure that we would go on the ‘journey’ with open eyes, hearts, and a clearly defined intention. Part of the preparation is a one-to-one talk with one of the facilitators, during which one’s personal intention, fears and the appropriate dosage are discussed.

The ceremony

The actual ceremony took place in a large room that had been lovingly decorated with flowers and candles and sixteen mattresses. Each mattress was equipped with an eye mask that we put on after taking the mushrooms, for the intention was to focus inwards.

The mushroom truffles are taken as an infusion (tea). The truffle paste is mixed in a cup with hot ginger water (the ginger is used to prevent nausea, sometimes caused by the mushroom truffle). The tea doesn’t taste good, but was not as bad as I had expected. Anyone who has ever survived a treatment with mushrooms used in traditional Chinese medicine will find the taste of psychogenic mushroom truffles unremarkable. I took a dosage that Timothy Leary supposedly called a ‘heroic dose’ — I can confirm that it was, at least for me! After drinking the tea, we each lay down on our mattress and pulled on our eye shades, thus allowing us to focus on the inward journey. During the entire trip, we were accompanied by a wonderful playlist that had been specifically created for the different stages of a psychedelic mushroom trip.

The questions and the intention with which I had entered the retreat were quickly rendered irrelevant. It appears I had the pleasure of a so-called ‘transpersonal experience’ — one that did not focus on my personal life, questions, or struggles but tapped into something universal. What I experienced is, to a large part, beyond words, but I will try to express it as well as I can. In essence, I can only describe it as the ecstasy of creation experiencing itself. Or, in the words of the philosopher, Syd Banks, I experienced Mind, Consciousness and Thought.

The first act: Creation

Then there were moments of Consciousness. I can’t even say that I was conscious, because ‘I’ did not figure much in the experience. There was Consciousness about the experience, a recognition of what was happening. Every once in a while, there was utter bliss in ‘finding’ a body part, an awareness of there being a foot, feeling a hand against the floor, a piece of fabric in a mouth (my pillow case in my mouth, I suspect), the hand of another human being (a facilitator who came to hold my hand). Every physical experience was incredibly intense and at the same time disembodied, because I could hardly relate it to myself. Finally, I travelled to the centre of the universe, the source of everything that is. In other (brief) moments, there was Thought; a meta-perspective in which I thought about what was happening — links that could be made to other human experiences, conditions and other thoughts.

During this part of the trip, I was in complete ecstasy. I can’t even call it joy, it was just the stupendous wonder of being Creator and simultaneously witnessing all of creation. I believe I screamed multiple times, ‘This is so beautiful; it is too beautiful for any one person’ into my pillow.

The second act: Grief

The third act: Love

I am me. I am them. I am the space in-between.

During the entire experience, my late mother was very present, and I mourned not being able to share this spectacle with her, while at the same time feeling as if she were there and guiding me in my process. One of the other participants reported the next day that, during his trip, he had been ‘making’ a movie in his mind. The subtitle of his movie was ‘You are who you love’. I feel this to be true. I love many people. I am me. I am them. I am the space in-between. This realisation brought me back into contact with the divine energy that I had already encountered at the age of sixteen.

Once the effects of the drug waned and I started to emerge, my sense of self reassembled. Then, for the first time in hours, I opened my eyes and enjoyed the visual afterglow of the mushroom truffles: the vibrancy of the leaves of the trees outside before the window, the rainbow glow surrounding each person that came into my focus and the intensity of the food that had magically appeared the in the centre of the room. The taste of the raspberries and the chocolate I ate was a transcendent experience in and of itself!

What remains

The last one and a half days of the retreat were dedicated to the processing of the experience. Half of the Sunday was dedicated to sharing our trip experience. The stories I was allowed to witness were inspiring, touching and sometimes hilarious. From our group of 16 participants, only one participant had an unpleasant trip — but even he felt that this experience had added value.

Since I have returned, many people have asked me if I would recommend such a trip. I would — in most cases. It is certainly advisable to know yourself well before taking the plunge and to have some awareness of the shadows of your psyche and which life themes are still sore points. Bad trips, that most people fear, are rare, but they do exist. This can therefore only be seen as a very personal account of taking magic mushrooms. Individual experiences with these drugs vary greatly and not all of them are perceived as positive. Given scientific findings in recent years (see links above), I do believe that natural psychoactive drugs should not be easily dismissed as a catalyst for our innate capacity for self-healing and as an access point into a state of oneness that is often only accessible for long-term meditators. This being said, I don’t promote the use of drugs in an unsupervised environment or as a replacement for psychotherapy, coaching, somatic work or of a regular spiritual practice. If my account peaked your interest, I strongly advise you to book a professionally facilitated trip with trained staff to guide you through the process.

Now, weeks after this mystical experience, I am still full of wonder. I feel privileged to have experienced something that feels like a peek behind the curtain of existence. I am grateful that I was able to surrender so completely and so fearlessly to immerse myself in that which, in some moments, seemed to border on the experience of madness. Never before have I allowed myself to surrender so completely to control and to surrender to a pure experience. For me, this surrender was only possible because I could fully trust the safe environment of the retreat and the loving and attentive facilitators of the British Psychedelic Society. I am deeply grateful to them and all my fellow travellers.

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